NASA and Slooh Want You To Help Them Hunt Down Asteroids
It's official. Last night, NASA and the Slooh Community Telescopes signed a deal that will see amateur scientists enlisted into a new militia of asteroid-hunting Earth-defenders. Civilian asteroid hunters will now be able to access the Slooh online telescope system to help NASA create the most comprehensive cataloging of near-Earth asteroids to date.
The goal of this epic challenge is to map out and categorize as many near-Earth medium-to-big asteroids as possible. According to NASA, the good news is that 90 percent of the really big guys—as in the asteroids over 1 km in diameter— have already been catalogued. These are the ones that could cause a potentially global catastrophe if they ever hit us. However, only about 30 percent of the more tricky and still-dangerous medium sized asteroids have been mapped out. It's here that the challenge truly lies.
"Protecting the planet from the threat of asteroid impact means first knowing where they are," explained Jenn Gustetic, NASA's Prizes and Challenges Program Executive. "By opening up the search for asteroids, we are harnessing the potential of innovators and makers and citizen scientists everywhere to help solve this global challenge."
This is all pretty exciting. Although this contract is only the latest in a long line of NASA's efforts to get the public involved, it certainly has the potential to be much bigger and more important than any citizen-NASA effort made before. For one, civilian astronomers and scientists will be able to serve in this challenge comfortably from their own computers at whatever time of day works best for them thanks to Slooh's streaming technology, but perhaps more importantly, the cause ultimately evokes our most primal urge to fight for survival as a species.
If you need any convincing of the importance of mapping asteroids, just watch this video that shows the magnitude of an explosion created by an asteroid breaking up in our atmosphere.
So let's give some extra support to our scientist friends because they are the army that will ultimately protect our future here on Earth.